If your company is growing and you are still executing projects in an ad hoc manner, you might benefit from this article.  It suggests possible ways to plan and schedule projects.  Project planning can help make your employees more efficient.  Instead of each going off to do their own thing, a project schedule brings people together.  It is a rallying point of focus.  Just make sure the project plan serves your purposes rather than the other way around.  If you don't have a project management tool, consider downloading the Timesheet App.

Who's Involved?
When you create your new project plan, first consider which employees are involved.  Since you probably have many simultaneous projects, assign only those people to it who will be active.  This reduces the clutter.  People only see the project that are relevant to them.  Later you'll schedule project tasks to these people.

Phases or Breakdowns
Does your project have natural phases?  In other words, do you have a long project that can be broken into more manageable pieces?  If so, you should consider creating those breakdowns now.  We call these subsystems, while Microsoft Project calls them summary tasks.  They are really just headings for all the real project tasks.  They just help you collect work into manageable areas.

Once you create a few subsystems under your project, you may find that even they can be broken down further.  So, you might consider creating subsystems under subsystems.  This breaks down the subsystem further.  But watch out.  Don't create so many breakdowns that you stymie your employees.  Keep it simple.  In man cases, one level of project breakdown is enough.  Keep your project plan easy to navigate.

What will employees do?
After laying out your major project breakdowns, the next step is to create the actual tasks employees will do.  These tasks will be located under the project phases you created earlier.  Each phase may contain several tasks.

Each task is unique.  It requires a certain amount of manpower to complete.  We measure that in hours, and call it Duration.  In the beginning, this is really just a forecast.  You estimate how long the work will take.  Later, when the project schedule is shown in the timesheet, you will collect actual work for each task.  So, a task has both forecasted work, and actual work.  This tells you the percent complete for each task, and ultimately for the entire project.

Optionally, you should consider scheduling each task to start at a certain time.  Don't get too rigid here, because sometimes things change.  Only schedule what you are certain will happen as planned.

Employees are resources
Now that you have a series of tasks under each project phase, it's time to consider resource assignment, or resource scheduling.  This is simple.  Its nothing more than the act of assigning employees to tasks.  That's it.  You've probably already been thinking along those lines.  You know what each of your resources is capable of.  And, you know the tasks needed to complete the project.  So, match them up.  Each task will be assigned to one or more people.

Why do this?  Resource scheduling has several benefits.  First, it lets you find all the tasks that a certain person is working on.  When you sit down with that person to discuss the project schedule, you can quickly locate all his tasks.  Next, it lets you find out if a person has enough to work on, or too much.

Employee timesheets should be limited to the projects they are assigned to, and the tasks that are relevant to them at this time.  In other words, don't show them projects that they don't work on.  It only clutters things.  Also, don't show tasks they aren't assigned to, or aren't scheduled to work on.  Keep the timesheet as tight as possible.

Get started!
Do you feel you have enough to get started?  Are the concepts clear?  The program offers the project management tools to write a good project plan, but you'll need to work at it.  It takes time to get this right, but when you do, you'll become a valuable asset to your company.  Good luck!

Also see: Video: How to Bid a Project


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